The Obama administration on Monday secured a permanent hold on a trial judge's order to stop enforcing “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the 1993 law that bans gay and bisexual troops from serving openly, the AP reported.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco granted defendants the stay they sought while the government prepares an appeal to U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' September ruling striking down the law as unconstitutional and subsequent injunction against its enforcement. The injunction was in place for 8 days before the same court set aside the order temporarily.

Monday's order means that the law that has ended the military careers of more than 13,000 gay, lesbian or bisexual service members will remain in effect for the months – possibly years – it could take to decide an appeal.

The 3-judge panel split along its partisan roots. Two judges appointed by President Ronald Reagan voted in favor of keeping the policy in place, while a third judge appointed by President Bill Clinton disagreed.

In its 8-page ruling, the court said keeping the injunction in place would “seriously disrupt ongoing and determined efforts by the Administration to devise an orderly change.”

Obama says he objects to the law, but is appealing the case because the wants it ended legislatively.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group lobbying for repeal of the law, called the ruling “a major disappointment.”

“Today's decision is a major disappointment, and it underscores the urgent need for the Senate to act this month in the lame duck session to end this confusion and bring about the finality that is needed,” he said. “We continue to warn service members that it is unsafe to come out as long as this law remains on the books.”

Prospects of repeal in the Senate, however, remain dim. Republican Senators in September successfully filibustered a repeal bill. Arizona Senator John McCain has already promised to work against a second effort.